On Friday October 11, 2019 I was asked to speak to recap my knowledge on media event sponsorships at the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association annual conference. The request came from the man that took a chance on me and gave me my first advertising sales job back in 1999 at a small newspaper call The Chronicle in my hometown of Centralia, WA.
I like to refer to Tom May as my OG Advertising Mentor. He taught me perhaps one of the most valuable business lessons that has stuck with me over the last 20 years I’ve been in media sales. “There are no tears in the advertising department”. And while that’s not entirely true, because I quite vividly remember the times that I could count on two hands that I have shed tears in “the advertising department”, the lesson still rings true to me.
In advertising, we aren’t saving lives. One could argue we are making lives better. We help businesses grow, which provides jobs and keeps consumers happy. But it really isn’t anything to shed a tear over, regardless of how stressful the job at times can be. I suppose it could be argued that without the advertising department, there would be no editorial department and I do believe editors and journalists change lives and change policies. Not in the same way, of course, that a doctor, a nurse, a firefighter, police officer, or someone that serves in the military saves lives. Those people are human angels. Journalists and editors are the voice of the people and educate with their storytelling skills that can many times help create the change that is so desperately needed in this world.
“There are no tears in the advertising department”.
– Tom May
Tom posted this picture of us on Facebook and wrote these kind words…”You’re looking at the two speakers for the ONPA Ad Con and PNW Magazine Awards. Huge thank you to Alysse Bryson for graciously agreeing to come speak with me. As Alysse noted in her talk, I have always joked that I am responsible for her success. But after listening to her yesterday, it is obvious that the student has clearly surpassed the master! Thanks again, Alysse.”
The week leading up to the conference I’d been thinking over what I should share. With a combined twenty years of experience in advertising sales and event sponsorships sales, I have countless examples of unique concepts and ideas I have successfully executed on over the last two decades. In fact, I started this website as a way to attempt to capture all of the events I’ve produced over the years, mainly with photos since I consider myself more of a visual storyteller than a writer. Maybe because it’s hard for me to sit still for long periods of time to write or maybe it’s just my own insecurities, but I feel more comfortable taking pictures or chatting up a storm over writing.
I thought a lot about my very first event sponsorship project I worked on during my days at the Centralia Chronicle. “The Taste of Home Cooking Show”. I hadn’t thought about this event in years! I produced this event three or four times during my years at the Chronicle. It involved procuring paid sponsorships and ideating ways to include their brands in interesting and engaging ways that would beneficial to consumers, creating business for the sponsors. With the mentorship of Dulcey Lamotte, my Sales Director at the time, she taught me that the key to a good event is organization, planned timelines, attention to the details, and strategic staffing. I learned the value of a “swag bag” and how painful they can be to assemble in large quantities. Fortunately I tapped into the junior high kids at Centralia Christian School, where my mother was a teacher and I am a alumni, to run an assembly line and get those bags stuffed in record time. (Naturally we gave them a generous donation for their time)
Side note for those of you that really know me and are chuckling at the fact my first event was a cooking show, given the fact I’m not much of a cook … Just remember, I was selling sponsorships and producing the event, not the one on stage cooking. LOL
I became a single mom the age of 21 and this experience alone taught me to be scrappy, resourceful, and to know when to tap into my village for help. I am and will always be a product of the amazing village that I have always been fortunate enough to surrounded by. This includes teachers during my K-Senior years, my coworkers at every place I have every worked, my family, my moms prayer group (I’m pretty sure I owe them my life), and the friends I have made along the way in this thing called life. I owe this life skill of gratitude and paying it forward to my parents, Gerry and Rachelle, who always lead by example in the importance of quality relationships.
After about six successful years of advertising sales in my small hometown, I was ready to move on to bigger and better things. I had my eyes set on Seattle. After waking up one morning and receiving the message during my morning prayers that it was time to go, I promptly applied for a position at The Seattle Times and moved 30 days later. Ironically, about a year later Tom May would follow me to the Times and become my boss for the 2nd time in a decade. I guess he just really loves bossing me around! And, not too long after that, I would give notice to him a second time because I had found my true love…magazines.
I will never forget the first time I saw Seattle Met on newsstands at a Fred Meyer near my home in Mill Creek, Washington. I had loved magazines my entire life, but as a small town girl, I’d always assumed magazines came out of LA, NYC, or Chicago. I’d never seen a city magazine and it was love at first sight. Becoming a single mom at a young age, I never finished my college education and I wasn’t particularly well traveled. But street smarts, now that I had.
I started at Seattle Met magazine in October of 2007, with no idea that in just a short time the economy would experience a massive shift. I started out as an Account Executive with the focus of new business. I wasn’t given a list of clients to start from and was challenged to find $650,000+ in new revenue in the first 12 months I was there. Challenge accepted and achieved.
After a few years as an Account Executive, I had proven my enate leaderships skills , that honestly just came very naturally to me. Maybe because I’m bossy, maybe because I’m too much, maybe because I don’t fear failure because I know I will always learn from it. Or maybe it’s that knack of charisma that I’ve learned to channel over the years that commands attention any time I enter a room. But I like to think it’s because I have a big heart, and when “I’m in”, I’m all in, and I have fierce drive to succeed.
I moved on to Sales Manager, followed by Sales Director, and quickly moved into Associate Publisher, and ended as Publisher all within about a 5 year timeframe. I worked for a woman who pushed hard and moved fast that taught me how to create over-the-top concepts that made money and were executed with perfection. It. Was. Hard. She was hard, inside and out. And regardless of how our work relationship finally came to an end, I did learn a few valuable lessons from her. How to be fearless, how to be bold, how to delegate. I also learned things from her that I didn’t want to be as a leader, which was perhaps the most valuable lesson and gift of all.
Over the years, I networked my ass off and I produced probably over 100+ events with my very best partner in crime, the fabulous Libby Sundgren, right by my side. We always joked we were one person, that I was the head and she as the legs to carry it out whatever crazy ideas we came up. We were and will always be a team. We drank the kool-aide together and would do whatever it took to succeed. Many times to a fault. Despite the fact that I was her boss, to me, we were always equals on the same team fighting for the same causes. Libby is my soul sister and I never want to imagine my life without her personally or professionally. (We are together again now at KING 5. You just can’t keep us apart.)
So when it came time to present my ideas to the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association, I had a wealth of examples that I could select from my memory banks and share from my time at The Chronicle, my time at the Seattle Times, my time at Seattle Met magazine, leading into my time now at KING 5 MEDIA GROUP and local NBC Affiliate, and a TEGNA Company. I have had a few speaking gigs at the City & Regional Magazine Association annual conferences over the years in front of hundreds of people. I’ve been the keynote speaker a few different times at nonprofit fundraiser breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. And, let’s not forget, I have tons of experience presenting to clients. Give me a reason to talk and I’m there!
My overall message at this particular conference is simply this. Content is KING! Find a way to create evergreen content that can be repackaged and repurposed over time that you can maximise with additional add on’s like large scale events, native campaigns, video content on both web and social platforms, small exclusive dinners, unique awards ceremonies, special sections (in print) or special shows on TV or YouTube. I have a knack for out of the box thinking with ability to deliver on my promises. The most important thing to me in my career is that I leave my mark on each company I work with in the most positive way possible. Because if they are better for working with me and embracing my concepts and ideas and even my mistakes, then I in turn become a better professional and person by working with them.
In my extensive experience in volunteer work, to give is always to receive, usually in ways you can never foresee or imagine. And that, my friends, is the media circle of life. Never burn bridges, stand up for what you believe, learn to have boundaries and the importance of sometimes saying no, and at the end of the day, always try to love what you do. That is the magic that makes it so you never have to work a day in your life. When you love what you do and who you do it with, you get the joy of working on projects you like with people you enjoy and the cherry on top of it all is the paycheck.
“The most important thing to me in my career is that I leave my mark on each company I work with in the most positive way possible.”
A few days after the conference, I received this kind note from one of the conference attendees.
I was thoroughly intrigued by your presentation at the PNW Magazine Conference last week in Lake Oswego.
You certainly are a dynamo who gets things done.
Regardless of the size of the city or community in which we live, any of your ideas can be scaled to fit.
Thank you for making me sit up and pay attention…”
Lyndon Zaitz, Keizertimes Publisher
If your media group is looking for a powerful and humorous speaker I hope you will reach out to me for availability. Sharing my stories to inspire others and help ignite them with new ideas is just one of my many passions.